Frequently Asked Questions


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If you don’t find the answer to your question below or on our “Resources” page, please contact us.

Although some people do both, interpretation and translation are distinct professions. Interpreters convert one spoken language into another –or in the case of sign language, they convert spoken communication into signed language and vice versa. Translators convert written materials from one language into another.
Please see our Member Directory. You may search by language combination, area of specialization, and other criteria. Once you’ve found a translator/interpreter who meets your needs, please contact her/him directly.
AATIA is not a translation agency and does not provide translations. Our members set their own rates.
Unlike in some other countries (Mexico and France, for example), there is no government agency in the United States that certifies translators, so there is no such thing as an official, legally certified translation. However, a translator can provide you with a translator’s declaration affirming that he/she has translated a document and that the translation is, to the best of the translator’s knowledge, a faithful translation of the original document. The declaration may be signed in the presence of a notary public, but the notary takes no responsibility for the accuracy of the translation. The American Translators Association (ATA), a nongovernmental professional association, offers certification for translators, but a translator does not have to be ATA-certified to provide a translator’s declaration. For more information, see “What is a certified translation?” on the ATA website.
  • Learn about the profession.
  • Find educational and training opportunities. Relatively few colleges and universities in the United States offer degrees in translation and interpreting. There are, however, many training programs of varying lengths and in various areas of specialization. For example, Austin Community College has a seven-course series in translation and interpreting. AATIA hosts workshops on a variety of topics, as do other professional associations. Click to download a list of training programs offered in Texas and nearby states and online. Check the ATA website for additional information on training programs.
  • Join AATIA and other professional associations. Most project referrals come by word of mouth. The more people you know in the profession, the more likely you are to get work. Listing your services in an online directory such as the AATIA Directory can also bring you work from other sources. AATIA has a reputation for helping newcomers develop the skills and contacts they need as they embark on their new profession. Please see our “Resources” page for newcomer information and/or contact our Newcomer Coordinator. Also check out ATA’s Savvy Newcomer blog, which has lots of tips on getting started in the profession.
Translators need college-level language skills in each of their working languages. While this is usually attained through the completion of a college degree, other life experiences – such as living and studying abroad – can also help you acquire the necessary language proficiency. While a degree in translation or interpreting is particularly useful, having at least a first-level degree (BA/BS or equivalent) in any field is desirable. Specialized knowledge in a particular field of endeavor is indispensable for high-quality translation and interpreting in that field.
The short answer: by taking an examination. However, the exam depends on your specific interest. The American Translators Association (ATA) offers translator certification for some language combinations. See the ATA website for more information. ATA also offers a “credentialed interpreter” designation for ATA members who are interpreters certified or accredited by another body. Court/judicial interpreters may obtain certification from the US federal government or by a state government agency. In Texas, the Judicial Branch Certification Commission (JBCC) is responsible for certification and licensing of court interpreters. The Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) and the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI) offer certification for interpreters in the medical/healthcare field.
Some state and federal government agencies, international organizations such as the United Nations, private companies, and healthcare institutions hire staff translators and interpreters. However, most translators are independent contractors (“freelancers”). They find individual clients through online referrals or contract with translation and interpreting agencies who receive translation contracts and recruit professionals to do the work. Most work for freelancers comes through word of mouth. Networking with other translators through organizations such as AATIA can be a rich source of referrals. Listings in online directories such as AATIA’s can also help you to market your services to potential clients.
Some hospitals and courts hire staff interpreters, as do some international organizations. However, most interpreters are independent contractors (“freelancers”). Telephone interpreters are contracted by over-the-phone-interpreting (OPI) agencies, which connect them with clients needing their services. Freelance medical interpreters work through face-to-face interpreting agencies who identify interpreting assignments for them at hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices. Freelance conference interpreters are often contracted by conference organizers from international organizations, government agencies, and private companies. Listings in online directories such as AATIA’s can help you to market your services, and networking with other interpreters through organizations such as AATIA can be a rich sources of referrals.
Please see the information on our Scam Job Offer page. 
Yes! Vietnamese is the third most frequently spoken language in Texas, after English and Spanish, and Chinese is the third most spoken language in the US as a whole. Other languages, including Arabic, French, German, Hindi, Korean, and Tagalog, are well represented, too.  Globalization, migration, and the course of international affairs have created great opportunities for translators and interpreters in all languages. Thanks to technology, language professionals need not be in the same geographical area where their language is used and may have clients all over the world. AATIA’s Member Directory can be accessed by clients from all over the globe who can then contract AATIA members listed there.

More Questions?

If you have questions about translator/interpreter training opportunities, certification, or the T&I profession in general, please see our “Resources” page.

If you would like more information about how to hire the right interpreter/translator, please see the “Getting it Right” publications on our Membership Directory page.

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